Zimbabwe, other South African countries face humanitarian crisis


A state of humanitarian crisis and disaster has been declared in Zimbabwe.  Half the country’s rural population of 10 million people will need food assistance by Christmas.  From Angola to Zimbabwe, food prices are soaring, and malnutrition is on the rise as the latest El Nino weather event takes a brutal toll on an already serious drought. The people there are facing significant food and livelihood gaps.  

As I read the news stories and hear life experiences from my Zimbawean friends my heart hurts. Drought is overwhelming the communities and is forcing families to rely on meals of leaves and watermelon soup or whatever is available. Malnutrition abounds. Many have only one meal a day when food is available.

The words and stories from those who know best speak for themselves in relating the need.

Charles Nyamakope, Zimbabwean pastor serving in Wallace, Nebraska, reports, “In my rural village in Zimbabwe people are traveling for 2 miles to get water for daily use from an abandoned dirt pond.” Drinking of unclean water and lack of food is causing a rise in diseases such as typhoid and diarrhea.

At the Great Plains Annual Conference this year, many of you may have met the team of five people from Zimbabwe. I asked them to help us understand about the effects of the drought. Austern Chepiri, Zimbabwe projects director, says that there is a reported shortfall of 9.3 million tons of grain regionally due to successive rainfall failure. About 4 million of the rural population (about 42 percent) will need food aid to pull them through to March 2017. He said some people have opted to sell their cattle at giveaway prices at a time when maize prices have skyrocketed, which will cause an inability to purchase the expensive grain to feed their family.

The Zimbabwe East conference lay leader, Simon Mafunda, suggests, “Even as we start to think of the coming cropping season, peasant farmers will need to be assisted with inputs to ensure a better harvest. The forecast has good rains.”  He asks us to pray that the rains happen as forecast.

The partnership that we have with the Zimbabwe East conference is all about Chabadza which is a Shona word for working alongside a person who is working in the field. Our Zimbabwe partners are working  in a fallow field right now trying to find ways to eat and work. Phillip Musharu, a district superintendent, organized a district food bank aimed at assisting people in drought-stricken places. There are areas where people cannot afford even a meal a day.  

“We encouraged each other to bring a 10-kilogram packet of meal per person, which resulted in 16 tons of maize collected and offered,” he said. “A 50-kilogram bag  was given to over 300  families.”  

The people of Zimbabwe are needing us to join them in the spirit of Chabadza.  The way we can do that is by sending monetary donations to help the people there purchase food as well as other life needs.   Please consider finding a way to come up with an offering to help our faithful and spirit-filled friends and neighbors in a land far away.  

The money can be sent to the conference office at:  Great Plains UMC Administrative Office, P.O. 4187, Topeka, KS. 66604.  Please note in the check memo line “Food for Zimbabwe.”  Zimbabwe Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa says, “Such resources for help will be highly appreciated.”

For further information, you may e-mail the Rev. Kalaba Chali at kchali@greatplainsumc.org  or the Rev. Linda Louderback at wichitawestds@greatplainsumc.org.

The Rev. Dr. Linda Louderback is the Wichita West District superintendent. Contact her at wichitawestds@greatplainsumc.org.

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